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Predictable froth - but I loved it. Opera diva Grace Moore played Opera diva Elsa Terry who reneged on a performance date in Buenos Aires in favor of a more lucrative offer from Paris. Melvyn Douglas is sent in to win her back. He pretends to fall in love with Moore without revealing his true identity and then, guess what? He really does fall in love! But not before she catches on and is hurt. Of course, all's well in the end. Stuart Erwin and Margaret Hamilton (two years before her Wicked Witch days) are terrific as comedy relief sidekicks for the two leads. Moore performs some lovely arias in full costume including the gavotte from Manon. And the title tune is still running through my head. Screened at Cinefest in Syracuse New York.
Grace Moore and Melvyn Douglas star in "I'll Take Romance," a 1937
musical film that has good support from Stuart Erwin and Margaret
Moore plays Elsa Terry, an opera star who has two engagements at the same time, one in Paris and one in Buenos Aires. Paris is the more lucrative offer, so she decides to blow off Buenos Aires. An agent (Douglas) has the job of getting her down South America way, so he romances her. They both fall in love for real.
This was Grace Moore's second-last film. She had a lovely voice, fuller than Jeannette MacDonald's. Unfortunately, the way female singers were taught in those days gave them a fluttery, back-sounding quality at the top and, due to not a lot of mixing of middle and chest voice, their middle voices were not as rich as they could have been. To think that a light, lyric voice like either MacDonald's or Moore's would attempt Tosca today is preposterous - yet both these women, with fragile instruments, actually did the role. In this film, Moore also takes on Madame Butterfly, another role that would never go to her today. Moore was a famous Mimi, a straight lyric soprano role, in La Boheme. A good deal of her singing in this film is quite beautiful.
The highlight of "I'll Take Romance" is the beautiful title song performed by Moore. She also sings from Manon, Traviata, and Martha, Martha being an opera no longer in standard repertoire. The character is singing at the old Met. Impressively, the segments from Traviata and Martha are fully staged and costumed and done without cuts. The American tenor Frank Forrest sings with Moore in Butterfly, and he has a beautiful voice.
This is supposed to be a screwball comedy. Moore was an easy, natural actress with no particular gift for comedy or screwball, so it doesn't quite come off. Melvyn Douglas sails through the film as he always did in these light leading man roles, and no one ever realized what an absolutely magnificent actor he was until the 1960s. Stuart Erwin and Margaret Hamilton are both very funny.
The extremely popular Moore had just finished a concert in Demark before 4000 people and was en route to Sweden when the plane crashed and killed her. She was 49 and had been out of films for eight years and concentrating on concert and USO work. She helped to popularize opera in the U.S. and paved the way for later stars like Mario Lanza and Kathryn Grayson.
By the time Grace Moore got around to doing I'll Take Romance for
Columbia Pictures the mid thirties vogue for opera stars on the screen
was fading. This was her last film under contract to Columbia and
hereafter except for the French film Louise, Grace Moore concentrated
on the grand opera, the concert stage, radio and commercial recordings.
Until Mario Lanza came along, Grace Moore was the most popular selling
classical artist on record.
Maybe had the film been done by someone like Jean Arthur who was an expert in screwball comedy with Moore dubbing her voice, I'll Take Romance might have come out better. When she's not singing, Grace just can't get into the screwball spirit.
It's certainly a screwball plot she has to deal with. Of course Grace is an opera singer who on a diva's whim decides she just doesn't feel like going to Buenos Aires to fulfill an engagement. Instead she wants to go to Paris.
Melvyn Douglas supplies his well worn charm as he saunters through the role of the guy who has to get her to Argentina by hook or crook. Accent is definitely on the latter as he resorts to kidnapping her. But if you follow the screwball comedies of the Thirties I think you know where this one is going.
As second leads and sidekicks to the leads, Margaret Hamilton and Stu Erwin are an interesting team. I can't recall any other film where Margaret was actually being romanced a bit herself even if it was by Stu Erwin.
Besides the usual opera arias for Grace, she also got in the title song one of the staples of her concert repertoire. If this film is remembered at all today it's because of the Ben Oakland-Oscar Hammerstein II song, I'll Take Romance. To both see and hear Grace Moore perform the song makes the film worth seeing.
If you only know Grace Moore from *One Night of Love*, you should
definitely check out this movie. It's much better.
First, Moore is much more at ease acting in front of the camera. In ONOL she often delivered her lines in a stilted way. Here, she is much more natural, and really seems to be having fun.
Second, and even though they do repeat it rather often, this movie does have a dynamite title song, which bears repeated listening.
Third, Moore is surrounded by a uniformly fine cast, starting with Melvyn Douglas and including Stu Erwin, Helen Westley, and Margaret Hamilton (yes, the Wicked Witch of the West, two years before TWOO), all in top form.
The weak point, frankly, is the three fully-staged operatic scenes. The first and the third, from Traviata Act I and the Love Duet from the end of the first act of Madama Butterfly, are well-performed. (The middle one, the Act III finale from Martha, is not as well done.) The problem is that they just sit there, and are not in any way integrated into the plot. If you think of a movie like Moonstruck, which does such a magnificent job of incorporating various scenes from La Boheme into its plot, you have some idea of what could have been done. Instead, the action just stops, and the audience is asked to sit back, watch, and listen, not even as if they were at the opera, because we are given no idea whatsoever of what is going on in those three scenes. If scenes had been chosen with situations similar to what was going on in the movie, and if the parallels had been indicated, the operatic scenes wouldn't have acted as dead weights in what is otherwise a nicely paced romantic comedy. (There is some effort to incorporate the scene from Manon into the action, but not much.)
Still, don't let those three scenes keep you away. Moore comes off as vivacious and fun-loving, Douglas is his usual easy-going and agreeable self. The result is an enjoyable 90 or so minutes.
I watched this again on TCM. The cast is really very good, a group of first-rate comedians. It's a shame the material isn't up to the level of their talent. Every now and then it seems about to take off and become a good comedy, but then it falls flat again.
I still feel that the operatic numbers slow things down. Only the Butterfly duet is really well done. On the other hand, Moore does a great job with the few pop numbers she is given. She should have sung more popular numbers and cut back on the opera.
I have only seen a couple of brief excerpts. The performance of the first act from Puccini's Madame Butterfly' was so amazing that I have been searching for the movie ever since. I imagine it is impossible to find. Over the years I have seen and heard many performances of "Butterfly" but there was something magical about this performance despite the grainy quality of the film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was moved to write this review because I took strong exception to
some of the other reviews I just read here of this film.
Is it a masterpiece? No. Is it predictable to a certain extent? Sure.
But the singing and the musical numbers are not interruptions; they are not diversions; they are the whole point.
In fact, the entire movie, more than anything, is a reinforcement of the message that music, and a wonderful person who sings it beautifully, is something important enough for folks to travel halfway across the globe to engage and to hire.
Every time the movie takes its time to present a snippet of Traviata in its entirety or, more miraculously and effectively, a huge totally uncut snippet from the wonderful first-act duet in Butterfly, it is sending the message "You wonder why it's so important to the Buenos Aires management that Miss Telly keep her contract and sing at their opera house? This is why! Listen to that music and listen to that voice." If the movie is about the need to persuade an errant diva to fulfill her contract, then the musical numbers answer the question as to WHY it's so important. Why is it so important to them? Why are they angry enough to sue over the loss of such an opportunity? The musical numbers answer that question, the Butterfly sequence most eloquently of all. Moore's perfect light lyric soprano voice lifts the movie from mere silliness to real sentiment. Without them, the movie would really have no point. I'm really surprised that so many of you didn't get that!!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Grace Moore was such a talent. She would live only another 10 years as
a plane crash would deny the world one of the greatest opera singers of
In this 1937 film, she plays a diva who is contracted to sing in Buenos Aires but instead is going to Paris. Manager Melvyn Douglas comes along and the first part of this comedy is devoted to him and his pal, Stu Irwin, trying to get in to see her. He has to resort to sublet the apartment next door to speak to her. Helen Westley steals the scenes that she is in as a long-retired, but doting aunt to Moore. It is so funny how Douglas tries to get Westley to like him.
Along for the ride is none other than Margaret Hamilton as Moore's wily secretary.
The film descends into constant kidnapping plots by Douglas to get Moore to Argentina. The film ends with her turning the tables on him and the scene of her singing in Madame Butterfly is a joy to watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Fun cast of characters, even if the plot is a smidge thin. Margaret Hamilton, of course, is the straight talking' maid, who talks back to everyone. Matronly Helen Westley is the guardian and agent for singer Elsa Terry (opera singer Grace Moore). Melvyn Douglas and Stuart Erwin claim to have a contract requiring Elsa to perform in Buenos Aires, but she she wants to go sing in Paris. I personally could have done without all the opera numbers, but this was 1937, and they still thought each film needed singing entertainment. The awesome Franklin Pangborn is in here, even if only for a line or two. This one DOES work as a comedy... lots of fun lines, double entendres, and banter. The only way to approach this is to go get a sandwich every time they perform the opera numbers; those long, yawners really bring things to a halt. Fun to watch, in spite of that. Directed by Ed Griffith. Sadly, Grace Moore would only make one more film after this... she died in a terrible plane crash in 1944.
As far as Grace Moore films go, 'Louise' and 'One Night of Love' are
better films, but having been let down by 'When You're in Love' (yes
even with the presence of Cary Grant) 'I'll Take Romance is superior to
that. Haven't seen 'Jenny Lind' yet, but am in two minds as to whether
it will be good or not.
'I'll Take Romance' is not a great film, but it's good fun and it is difficult to not be taken by its charm. The story is slight, it's also predictable and gets sometimes on the wrong side of incredibly silly. Moore showed in other films that comedy comes naturally to her, but they were films with a frothier approach. Here the timing (as it's more screwball-like comedy) needed to sharper and wittier and she struggles a little.
Have to concur also that, as good as the operatic music is as music on its own, other films have done much better jobs at integrating opera into their stories. Here they are well sung (though Butterfly is rather heavy a role for Moore's voice from personal opinion), but it does feel like they are there for the reason of having opera to showcase Moore's voice without finding a way to weave it into the story in a relevant way, consequently they do slow the film down, especially when the scenes from 'Madama Butterfly' and 'Martha' are long. A couple are more interesting than others, coming off least is actually the least known one 'Martha', it was interesting to see and hear a non-standard repertoire excerpt but the staging was static and indifferently directed.
On the other hand, 'I'll Take Romance' is a beautifully photographed and produced film and mostly very nicely directed (only 'Martha' doesn't quite come off, and it could be to do with that the drama in the opera is not the most compelling in the first place, not bad as such but there are operas that are more involving dramatically in general). The music is wonderful especially the title song, there are no qualms with the music itself it's just the placement.
Scripting is witty, funny, frothy without being shallow and don't fall into schmaltz. Moore is charming and likable, though her character frustrates at times, while Margaret Hamilton and Stu Erwin provide sterling comic support. Best of all is debonair Melvyn Douglas, a role that fits him like a glove and one that he can do in his sleep and still engage the pants off you, a contender for Moore's best leading man. The romantic chemistry is sweet without being sentimental and endearing.
To conclude, charming, romantic and fun, reservations for the story and placement and timing of the operatic excerpts aside. 7/10 Bethany Cox
Back in the day, Grace Moore was a huge opera star. Somehow, the
studios thought they could translate this into making her a movie star
but after less than a dozen films, she just didn't make much traction
in the film industry. Her acting wasn't bad but she didn't exactly have
a movie star look and her singing style was something most viewers
wouldn't have enjoyed...even more so today. Fortunately, Columbia
paired Moore with Melvyn Douglas, an actor who had an easy-going acting
style and brought out the most in this otherwise limp film.
The film hampers itself by creating a pretty dreadful conflict...one that makes viewers immediately dislike Moore's character. Apparently, this singing diva has a contract to sing in South America but is planning on just ditching it in favor of singing in Paris. I don't know about you, but anyone totally ignoring a contract and the impact breaking it would have on others makes me pretty angry at her. Douglas plays a guy hired to try to get her to South America and eventually he tries to use romance to woo her that way.
Unfortunately, every time this film starts to get interesting, Moore breaks into song....and most of the songs are operatic. I was watching the film at home and whenever she sang, I did chores! Too bad, as it's otherwise an agreeable little film.
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